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Why is Hatikvah such a successful school?

HATIKVAH has been successful in achieving its mission because it has implemented a distinctive program reflecting the following mission-aligned key design elements which serve as the cornerstones of its highly effective instructional program.

  • Dual language instruction with Modern Hebrew taught in Grades K-8 using the Proficiency Approach (PA) for language acquisition, in addition to instruction in English language arts (ELA), math, science, social studies, art, music, drama, physical education and robotics (in the middle grades). Spanish language instruction is added in the 8th grade.
     

  • A service-learning instructional component that teaches the value of social responsibility to students as citizens of a global community.
     

  • A commitment to serving a diverse student body reflective of its community.
     

  • The use of a co-teaching model in K-5th grade and the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) instructional model during core instruction to facilitate a balanced approach to learning and greater differentiation to meet the needs of all learners.

  • The use of middle school discipline certified specialists in 6th grade and high school discipline certified teachers in 7th and 8th grades.
     

  • A middle school fully authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IB) as an IB Middle Years Programme (MYP).
     

  • Comprehensive and customized pre-opening, job-embedded and after hours professional development (PD) that is collaborative, data-driven and ongoing facilitated by educational supervisors to support instructional effectiveness and instructional capacity within HATIKVAH.
     

  • A commitment to data-driven decision-making and a culture of holding all instructional faculty and supervisors accountable for student achievement.

GRR also promotes a focus on accelerating student learning as it relies on teachers being attuned to ongoing student strength, areas for growth, and understandings and misunderstandings to inform their instruction. Rather than concentrating on a litany of items that students have failed to master, acceleration readies students for new learning. Past concepts and skills are addressed, but always in the purposeful context of future learning. Students learn faster and comprehend at a higher level when they have prior knowledge of a given concept. A crucial aspect of the acceleration model is putting key prior knowledge into place so that students have something to which they can connect new information. During GRR’s mini-lessons, HATIKVAH teachers thoughtfully activate prior knowledge that will best help students grasp the upcoming standard. GRR challenges students to analyze, evaluate and create and supports the underlying premise of teaching for understanding promoted by Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design (UbD) approach. It also promotes a high degree of instructional differentiation because teachers are aware of what ongoing student assessment is telling them about each student, subgroup of students or their class as a whole, to target interventions in the guided portion and individual conferencing portions of the model, or lessons can be re-taught if class-wide data reflects that need.

The main objective is to release cognitive responsibility to learners over time and to ensure that each student is pushed at an appropriately challenging level each day. As a learning-centered framework, GRR ensures teachers to establish goals, check for understanding, provide feedback, align future instruction and tasks with student performance, and gradually remove instructional scaffolds to promote independent performance and transfer.

GRR supports differentiation of instruction especially as it relates to different ability levels of student groupings—English Language Learners, students with disabilities. accelerated students, struggling students, etc. Teachers use comprehensive and ongoing formal and informal assessment data to identify students’ needs, tailor instruction, and determine flexible small group composition. During GRR’s practice/application phase, teachers pull individual students or small groups of students for additional and differentiated instruction based on assessment information.

The overarching instructional models used at HATIKVAH—Gradual Release of Responsibility (and Proficiency Approach (for Hebrew and Spanish language instruction) are mission-aligned, grounded in research and are highly effective in classrooms of diverse learners. GRR requires that teachers transition from assuming all the responsibility for performing a task to a situation in which the students assume all the responsibility. The model ensures that students develop the skills to analyze, synthesize and apply information in a variety of environments and experiences across all disciplines. HATIKVAH teachers draw upon GRR to support their instructional decisions as they guide students to understand important skills and concepts through iterative cycles of focus lessons; guided, collaborative, and independent practice; and regular opportunities for application and transfer. GRR starts with instructional scaffolds—purposeful, educator-designed supports for learning, such as providing guided notes, previewing vocabulary, and progressing from simple to complex applications of the same concept.

Highly individualized instruction is further supported by co-teaching. In addition to the co-teaching model used in the majority of elementary classrooms, HATIKVAH has an in-class resource setting at every grade level, K-8th. Co-teachers differentiate instruction by varying the level of scaffolding provided to students during guided instruction giving students equitable access to challenging curriculum. Teachers plan lessons for students to master targeted skills and concepts without diluting the content. This also allows for multiple points of entry to engage diverse learners.  HATIKVAH teachers implement a highly interactive instructional model that engages students in strategic, authentic disciplinary reading. In addition to engaging in before and after-reading strategies, teachers teach students to use during reading strategies through asking open-ended queries that require them to make literal sense of a segment of the text and then reflect on its meaning. Using this process iteratively, students develop the habit of continually monitoring their understanding of a text and pausing when gaps arise. HATIKVAH teachers facilitate questioning student discussions in whole groups, small groups, or individually, and can eventually release responsibility to independent study groups.

An inquiry process designed around open-ended essential questions challenges students to engage with real world issues and seek solutions using the methods of academic disciplines.

 

Students are taught structured problem-solving processes and questioning techniques. They are encouraged to rethink assumptions and engage with their world as a place to improve rather than to accept. The inquiry develops students’ conscious control of the concepts and procedures they are using, building transferable strategies they can apply to new situations.

The PA used to deliver Hebrew (and in 8th grade, Spanish) instruction is grounded in research. In second language teaching, academics distinguish between learning a language and acquiring a language. Learning a language involves accumulating knowledge about the language, its behavior, and its structure: one relates to it as an outsider. Acquiring a language involves internalizing its structure and its behavior and as a result, using its linguistic components automatically to understand or create meaningful messages. PA increases students’ ability to read, speak, write and listen to the learned language and is considered the gold standard for foreign language instruction by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). PA incorporates robust assessment tools for both formative and summative evaluations. Hebrew classes are conducted exclusively in Modern Hebrew, so students hear the language as it is naturally spoken; vocabulary and expressions are modeled for students who then begin to practice with their peers. PA is fully consistent with GRR, providing a seamless transition for students from Modern Hebrew instruction to other core subject instruction.

HATIKVAH’s curriculum is homegrown and anchored in the learning standards which include the NJ Student Learning Standards across all content areas, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in science and the ACTFL Proficiency Standards.

 

For grades 6-8, the addition of the IB MYP criterion-based and discipline-specific rubrics adds a layer of rich assessment practices to the curriculum which assists teachers, students, and parents

in understanding discipline-specific development.

NOTE: Hatikvah does not have a separate Gifted and Talented program. Hatikvah's practice is a mission aligned approach to meeting the individual needs of all students including those that have mastered topics which are about to be taught.  The teachers pre-test children in reading, writing, and mathematics in order to customize assignments so that children continue to learn and grow at their own pace.  The school accomplishes this with multiple teachers in the classrooms and by running small group instruction in addition to mini-lessons that offer more general whole group instruction. Instead, it is the school's policy to offer all students the same educational opportunities, regardless of any demographic differences or any special education eligibility.  Students who possess or demonstrate higher levels of ability in one or more content areas, when compared with peers, have modified school work to match their needs and to work with peers, or move to higher, more appropriate instructional grade that meet their needs when classroom peers are unavailable at their level. These determinations are made through the use of multiple assessments.